America the Desired

  • by Pete O'Brien
  • 07-04-2021

Today, as with every July 4th, shortly before noon, there will be a brief ceremony on the lawn at Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s beautiful farm on the banks of the Potomac, welcoming a host of brand new Americans. They come from all over the world, but after noon today they will all be Americans.

But hey, that’s like the rest of the world, too. Right? Lots of people will become Chinese today, won’t they? Or this year? Maybe not. The last year for which we have complete data is 2019 (2020 was an aberration), and in 2019, 843,000 folks became Americans! Huzzah! Another 1,030,000 became lawful permanent residents. The current estimate is that there are 2 million people who will try to get into the US this year - just this year. 

Compare this to China, since the cognoscenti are holding China up as a model to emulate; How many millions are trying to get into China (North Korea doesn’t count)? The answer, of course, is that no one is trying to become a Chinese citizen - nor can they.

Worldwide, 272 million people live in a country in which they weren’t born. Of that total, 51 million live in America, four times as many as 2nd place (Germany). China, with 1.4 billion people, has 1 million people who were not born in China, 300,000 of them being ethnic Chinese who immigrated in the 1970s from Vietnam (China and Vietnam, as you will recall, had short but violent war in 1979). Most of the rest are also ethnic Chinese who returned to China over the course of the last 75 years. The last year on record, 2016, China issued 1,516 permanent residency visas. By comparison, there are more than 2.5 million American citizens who were born in China.

So what?
Here’s the thing: despite what some may think about how horrible America is, the reason there’s a crisis at our southern border is not because people are trying to leave. Rather, it’s because there are a whole bunch of people who want to come here and live here, who want to be Americans. They are voting with their feet. 

It’s because they see a place that has 5 current US Senators who weren’t born here, as well as 29 Congressmen, and 2 Cabinet Secretaries. And 1 governor.

It’s because they see a place where a couple of brothers of German, Swiss, Dutch and English ancestry, making bicycles, became men who could fly; where 5 brothers, sons of Jewish immigrants from Germany, became one the greatest comedy acts in history; where a fellow born in Shanghai earned a PhD from Harvard in applied physics and built a multi billion dollar computer company; where a minister, grandson of sharecroppers of African ancestry (and a dash of Irish), would grow up to stir the world with his rhetoric and help to reshape our society.

They didn’t view themselves as anything other than Americans. They would have been in complete agreement with Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1915 talked of what it meant to be American.

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts “native” before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen.
Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance. But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.
The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic.
All of us, no matter from what land our parents came, no matter in what way we may severally worship our Creator, must stand shoulder to shoulder in a united America for the elimination of race and religious prejudice. We must stand for a reign of equal justice to both big and small. 

Despite the cursing and moaning of various jaundiced skeptics in Washington and Hollywood, the above is what most of the people who want to get into America still believe. They believe they can build a real future here; they believe that, as Americans, they can live a better life; they believe that here in America they can truly be free. 

Maybe if we stop looking at each other as anything other than Americans, maybe then, that dream of that Minister might come to pass, that his children will be judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.

Imagine what we could do then, everyone just working hard… We could do anything. After all, this is America.

Happy Independence Day!